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Approval Junkie

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Have you ever come squarely face to face with yourself, with an epiphany about a shortcoming, habit, character flaw, that you should have noticed far sooner than you have? It’s painful to assess one’s own flaws honestly, and the defenses go up, even with those closest to us, if we have to hear a recitation from the lips of another.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need approval, I seek approval, which is the only thing that allows me to feel any self worth. I retreat into the recesses of unpleasant memories, stinging labels hung on me from early childhood which somehow have woven themselves into the fabric which defines my ego. How can a seven-year-old be a slut? What misdeed can a second grader be guilty of which forces a drunken parent to threaten his or her life? Why would a thirteen-year-old, obligated to stay after school for band practice, be locked out of the house all night? How many slaps across the face for no reason does it take to snuff out self-esteem?

Compliments seem insincere; flattery offered (for who knows what reason) raises the caution flag that somebody wants something of me. Soulful Hallmark cards are meant for others, not me. I’ve reiterated to myself the litany of negativisms first heard from the lips of parents for decades now, knowing somewhere deep down I’m not those things, yet filled with self loathing regardless. The intellectual self, which might offer a crumb of encouragement is defeated by the memories of harsh words, filthy name calling, and unspeakable deeds done. Reciting a positive mantra seems childish and arrogant, while dwelling on past treatment self indulgent and pathetic.

I find myself behaving as a rescued hound, saved from euthanasia at the last moment, slavishly devoted to anyone throwing me a scrap of sincere, genuine approval for anything I’ve done. I teeter on the edge of becoming a nuisance, performing feats of occasional brilliance for the barest nod of approval; none of which causes me any increase in self-esteem.

A victim of my own thinking … unable or unwilling to break the cycle of what started out as suppression from others, which now has alarmingly progressed to self suppression, self loathing and disgust.

Can I rescue myself?

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